Mumbai: The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) on Monday issued an order to test all brands of noodles, pasta and macaroni present in the market and with tastemaker inside.

“Various test results on Maggi and some other similar products have raised serious health concerns. In view of the same, it would be advisable to draw regulatory samples for similar products for which product approvals have been granted by FSSAI," the food safety regulator said in its order.

Products of eight firms are under the scanner. These include Ruchi International’s Koka Instant Noodles, CG Foods India Pvt. Ltd’s three variants of Wai Wai noodles, GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare Ltd’s 10 variants of Foodles, ITC Ltd’s three variants of Sunfeast Yippee noodles, Indo Nissin Food Ltd’s Top Ramen Atta Masala and AA Nutrition Ltd’s Yummy chicken and vegetable noodles. Nestle India Ltd’s macaroni and penne pasta offerings are also under observation.

On 5 June, FSSAI asked Nestle India to “stop further production, processing, import, distribution and sale" of all nine variants of Maggi with immediate effect as they had been found unsafe for human consumption.

FSSAI has asked for reports to be submitted by 19 June. It has also mentioned that the samples should be tested separately for the product and the masala/tastemaker.

For all other instant noodle brands available in the market, the food regulator said, “The safety of all other such products in these categories has not been assessed as per the product approval procedures. As such, the same are unauthorized and illegal and cannot be intended for human consumption." The FSSAI order also called for “ensuring that such products are recalled, removed from the market and destroyed". Hindustan Unilever Ltd’s Knorr Soupy Noodles is not mentioned in the list of products.

“We wish to clarify that Knorr Soupy Noodles is a soup-based product and hence is a standardized product under the Food Safety and Standards Act (FSSA), 2006. The FSSAI product approval guidelines are therefore not applicable.

“With regard to Chinese range of Knorr Instant Noodles, we wish to clarify that the ingredients used are permitted under the FSS Regulation, 2011/Codex and details of the same have been shared with FSSAI as part of our application and the company continues to engage with FSSAI," a Hindustan Unilever spokesperson said.

Apart from the list that FSSAI put out on Monday, other brands in these product categories will also be tested. The food regulator may also look at more product categories in the ready-to-cook segment, said three FSSAI officials who did not want to be identified.

States such as Tamil Nadu have already banned Wai Wai Xpress Noodles, Reliance Select Instant Noodles and Smith and Jones Chicken Masala Noodles for three months starting 4 June. The Gujarat government banned the Leong Hakka noodles brand for 30 days after samples failed laboratory tests, the Hindustan Times reported on 5 June.

Reliance Retail Ltd, which has 2,621 stores in India across 200 towns, has temporarily withdrawn all brands of instant noodles from its stores across the country, the firm said on Friday. The retailer said the step had taken in the interest of the health and well-being of customers, the enlightened interest of 11 partner firms and to remain in compliance with legal and regulatory processes across the country.

India’s consumer packaged goods market, which includes foods, non-foods and products sold over the counter, is estimated to be worth $40 billion as of March 2015, according to Nielsen India, an insights provider. Of this, packaged foods is the largest category, accounting for 53% or $21.2 billion of the overall market.

Processed foods account for a third of the overall sales of supermarket chains such as Reliance Mart, Big Bazaar and D-Mart. “Instant noodles is a high appeal category and how it will impact sales is yet to be seen as there is no precedent to the current situation," says Damodar Mall, chief executive officer (value format) at Reliance Retail, adding that noodles accounted for less than 10% of processed food category revenues.

Taking Maggi off the shelves has put 20% of Nestle India’s revenues at risk. Moreover, the Maggi brand accounts for 30% of its sales. Nestle India’s premium valuations are also at a risk now as the brand image takes a hit. Since 21 May, 11 brokerages have reduced the target price for Nestle India while two brokerages have changed their recommendation.

Analysts expect the Maggi safety issue to impact the entire food processing and consumer packaged goods industry in India. “We expect tighter norms on products like processed foods and personal care in coming years," said Amnish Aggarwal, senior research analyst, institutional equities, at brokerage Prabhudas Lilladher Pvt. Ltd.

So far, food companies such as Britannia Industries Ltd, which makes Tiger and Good Day biscuits, have not seen any impact as their ratings and recommendations remain unchanged. Likewise for ITC and Hindustan Unilever, which have instant noodles as a part of their packaged food offerings.

To be sure, food safety standards are flouted often in the country. In fiscal year 2015, 17% or 8,469 of the 49,290 food samples tested were found to be non-conforming, according to the FSSAI website. The details of the companies and samples tested were not shared.

Meanwhile, Singapore, which had on Friday put Maggi imports from India on hold following reports of their high lead content, has now lifted the restriction as its internal tests have found the noodles safe for consumption, said Bloomberg.

However, in India, the government has dragged Nestle to the consumer court for “unfair trade practices and misleading advertisements", according to various newspaper reports. “This could take six to nine months to be resolved under the normal process and if its fast-tracked, it will still take three months at least," said Aditya Bapat, counsellor, Bombay high court.

The only silver lining is that as it has been done at the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, Nestle won’t have to face proceedings from various district or state-level commissions. “This will be an interesting case as it is the first of its sort and there is no precedent," said Vivek Nankani, senior advocate, Bombay high court.

“We note that FSSAI and Nestle are not on the same page with regard to the presence of monosodium glutamate and lead above permissible limits, which has added to confusion and delay in any resolution," said a Motilal Oswal report, adding that Nestle will have to reformulate the product, improve production processes, change packaging, claims and communication, and seek approvals for the re-launch of the product. “It would require considerable media spends and consumer interaction to bring the product back on rails," the report said.

Since 21 May, Nestle India’s stock has lost 20.29%, going from 6,950.30 to 5,539.80 per share, while the benchmark Sensex lost 4.63%, falling from 27,809.35 to 26,523.09 points.

Close